By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The state should make renewable energy mandates obtainable
Placeholder Image
Last year, Governor Brown signed SB x2, which requires California's utility districts to provide a third of their electricity from "renewable" sources by 2020. At the signing of the onerous Renewables Portfolio Standard program, the governor and the bill's author, Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), spoke of how great this would be for California.

They spoke of solar and wind as the future for energy production in the state. They said the rest of the world would see California as a shining example and emulate these standards. What they left out of their speeches was our current economic reality and the effect this legislation would have on the average Californian as more wind and solar energy are required. Meeting these new standards will be extremely costly, and it will ultimately be the consumer who is burdened.

Those costs are amplified in areas such as ours. Utilities in the Valley have to spend millions of dollars in order to reach RPS goals. For example, Turlock Irrigation District estimates it will cost over $241 million over the next nine years to comply. That averages out to an additional $274 per customer each year.

Those costs are too great. With so many just barely scraping by, we should be reducing the costs associated with basics such as lighting our homes and keeping our families warm. For those on fixed incomes - not to mention struggling businesses - such increases are devastating.

Unfortunately, the political reality is that we must live with the law. However, this does not mean that we can't improve the law and make it more affordable without reducing environmental goals.

In the implementation of RPS, the glaring omission of our state's oldest renewable energy source, hydroelectric power, has resulted in large hydroelectric facilities not qualifying under the RPS program. The power generated by these facilities is every bit as clean as the power generated by wind or the sun.

TID obtains almost a quarter of their energy from these hydroelectric facilities. But as the program works now, that power is ineligible and TID needs to purchase enough renewable power elsewhere to meet its mandate.

It isn't just TID that faces this problem. For decades, irrigation districts and utilities across the state have obtained a great percentage of their electricity from the water that flows through our dams.

There is no reason hydroelectric power should not be counted as a renewable energy source in RPS calculations. To address this issue, I introduced a bill last year that would have included them as a renewable resource. My colleagues in the Senate had concerns with the bill and I have since worked to address those issues.

This year, taking their feedback into consideration, I introduced new legislation that removes hydroelectric power from the RPS equation. SB 971 would change the program by computing RPS based on a utility's total load, less the portion generated from large hydroelectric facilities. So if a utility district received 25 percent of the electricity it delivers to its customers from these facilities, their new RPS mandate would be on the remaining 75 percent of power generated from other sources.

SB 971 would significantly reduce the costs of complying with RPS.

The fight to get this bill passed will not be an easy one. There are many special-interests up in Sacramento that do not care about the costs that are passed along to a struggling family or a senior on a fixed income. As your senator, I pledge to find ways to bring relief for Californians during this tough economic period.

I will be doing all I can to make sure this bill is signed into law this year.